Phil Donahue's War
by JOHN NICHOLS
[from the April 28, 2008 issue]
During the week that George W. Bush-- with an assist from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker--began demanding another $100 billion or so for his Iraq War, Phil Donahue began presenting the real face of the conflict. The daytime television pioneer, who from the 1960s to the '90s taught America how to discuss uncomfortable topics, was doing it again with a remarkable antiwar documentary, Body of War, which went into national distribution just as Petraeus was telling Congress to forget about the ever mounting human and economic toll and give the war more time.
Donahue was not just using his considerable prominence to pitch a project. The man was preaching. "We've all got to stop and say: every day, young men and women are being killed, their bodies are being torn apart in an insane war that started with spin--which is a nice word for 'lies'--and that continues with spin. Why are we just standing here? Why are we allowing this massive blunder to continue?"
The Middle American Everyman, whose Phil Donahue Show premiered in 1967 with an appearance by the woman who knocked prayer out of the public schools, atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, has never shied away from controversy. That penchant prevented him from following Ronald Reagan's lead and entering politics--as suggested by supporters who urged him to seek a Senate seat from his native Ohio or his adopted Connecticut--and got his short-lived cable comeback tossed off MSNBC on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. Donahue's show was pulling better ratings than others on the network, but his questioning of the rush to war scared NBC executives, who circulated a memo expressing fears that this one hour of open-minded programming could become a "home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."
"I thought I was offering the network something--a show with real debates, real ideas that Americans who wanted something more than cheerleading would tune into," says Donahue, who notes that MSNBC has since remade itself as the skeptical cable network, with the questioning led by Keith Olbermann. "I think we've been proven right. Unfortunately, the network wasn't willing to take a chance when it might have made a difference--before the war started." The whole experience turned Donahue, who had always worried about whether TV was serving democracy, into an even more trenchant critic of consolidated and compromised media. But Donahue's faith in the power and possibility of dissent is steady, especially with regard to a war that TV continues to cover with a caution bordering on the propagandistic.
There is nothing cautious about Body of War, which Donahue directed with a terrific independent filmmaker he sought out, Ellen Spiro. The talk-show host who broke every television taboo--showing a woman giving birth, discussing AIDS before almost anyone else, treating transvestites with respect and corporations with distrust--is now breaking the taboo that says Americans cannot stomach the reality of this war.
Over the haunting music of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who volunteered to aid the project, Body of War introduces 25-year-old Tomas Young, a patriotic kid from Kansas City who signed up to fight 9/11 terrorists because his President called him to duty. Young took a bullet in the spine during his first week in Iraq and returned paralyzed from the chest down [for more on Young, see Eugene Richards's moving photo essay in these pages, "War Is Personal," March 27, 2006]. "Heartbreaking" is not a powerful enough word for the story of this veteran Donahue met with his friend Ralph Nader at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Confronted with a war he passionately opposed but did not know how to stop, Donahue considered writing a book. But after attending the 2005 National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis, he decided to do what he's done for decades on television: show America something it would not see elsewhere. With Spiro, Donahue tells "a story of a heartland kid who suddenly went from a social life of singles bars and courtship to a daily routine of catheters, puke pans and erectile dysfunction." The film has won glowing reviews, one hailing it as "almost unbearably moving." Finding a distributor proved so difficult that after almost a year they set up their own distribution plan for what is more than just a soldier's story. Body of War is, at heart, a scathing indictment of the politicians who sent Tomas Young to fight and who keep sending others like him into the quagmire--and of complacent media that seem to be losing interest in a war their lax coverage made possible. The inspiration comes from Young, who rolls in his wheelchair at the front of antiwar demonstrations, and from Veterans for America president Bobby Muller, a paralyzed Vietnam vet who tells his young comrade, "If I don't fight the system, I will die."
That's a fitting credo for Donahue. The man who mastered the system now fights it. He is a fiercer critic than ever of those who hold microphones but do not use them to "fight the system." "They say there is 'Iraq fatigue,' that we can't keep going over what's wrong with this war. That's what the suits like to think. It's convenient. A sanitized war doesn't stir things up," says the 72-year-old champion of the free press. "But war is real, especially for veterans like Tomas. And if the American people see that reality, I believe they will force the politicians to end it."
US GIs in Iraq suffer worst week of '08
Bloodiest Week of 2008 for US Troops in Iraq Ends With Roadside Bomb Death, Pushing Toll to 19
ROBERT H. REID
Apr 12, 2008 20:58 EST
A roadside bomb killed an American soldier in Baghdad on Saturday, capping the bloodiest week for U.S. troops in Iraq this year. Clashes persisted in Shiite areas, even as the biggest Shiite militia sought to rein in its fighters.
At least 13 Shiite militants were killed in the latest clashes in Baghdad's militia stronghold of Sadr City, the U.S. military said. Iraqi police said seven civilians also died in fighting, which erupted Friday night and tapered off Saturday.
The U.S. military said the American soldier was killed in a blast Saturday morning in northwestern Baghdad but did not say whether Shiite militiamen were responsible.
The death raised to at least 19 the number of American troopers killed in Iraq since last Sunday.
American casualties have risen with an outbreak of fighting in Baghdad between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the largest Shiite militia — the Mahdi Army of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, repeated on Saturday his demand for American soldiers to leave the country and urged his fighters not to target fellow Iraqis "unless they are helping the (U.S.) occupation."
Al-Sadr also blamed the Americans and their Iraqi allies for the assassination Friday of one of his top aides, Riyadh al-Nouri, director of his office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
Gunmen ambushed al-Nouri as he was returning home from Friday prayers, and al-Sadr followers shouted anti-American slogans at his funeral in Najaf.
Despite the strident rhetoric, however, there were signs that al-Sadr was trying to calm his militia to avoid all-out war with the Americans. Al-Sadr is also under pressure from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, to disband the Mahdi Army or face a ban from politics.
Sadrist officials told The Associated Press they had received orders from their headquarters in Najaf to avoid confrontations with Iraqi and U.S. forces unless the Americans try to move deep into Sadr City, which has been under siege for two weeks.
The officials said the Sadrist leadership was concerned that the ongoing clashes were turning into a war of attrition that was weakening the movement and undermining support within its Shiite power base.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to discuss policy with outsiders.
In a move to bolster its image among Sadr City residents, the government Saturday lifted a ban on entering and leaving the district, home to some 2.5 million people. Police announced that one of the entrances had been opened to motor traffic.
Army patrols warned residents through loudspeakers to keep off the streets, saying the rebels had planted roadside bombs that needed to be cleared by the security forces.
Fighting also continued Saturday against Sunni insurgents in the north.
In Mosul, a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle Saturday into a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle, detonating a nearby fuel truck. No American soldiers were killed or injured, but one Iraqi child died and four people were wounded, U.S. officials said.
U.S. and Iraqi troops killed five Sunni al-Qaida fighters and captured two in a joint air assault in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Elsewhere, Iraqi soldiers acting on tips from detained Shiite militiamen found 14 bodies that had been buried in a field south of Baghdad, officials said Saturday. It was the second discovery this week of mass graves in the area, raising to 45 the number of bodies located there.
The victims are believed to have been killed more than a year ago as part of a cycle of retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis that has since ebbed.
Recent clashes in the Baghdad area have severely strained a unilateral truce which al-Sadr imposed on the Mahdi Army last August. He ordered the standdown to allow time to reorganize the force and purge criminal factions that had tarnished the image of his movement.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that al-Sadr's truce, along with the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida, had played a major role in reducing American and Iraqi deaths, especially in the Baghdad area.
With renewed Shiite militia fighting, Baghdad is now accounting for a growing number of American casualties.
Last month, 61 percent of the U.S. military deaths occurred in Baghdad, compared with 28 percent in February and 47 percent in April, 2007, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.
Fighting in Baghdad broke out following last month's ill-prepared Iraqi government offensive against Shiite militias and criminal gangs in the southern city of Basra.
The offensive stalled in the face of fierce resistance by the militias, whose allies in the capital showered rockets and mortars on the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.
Although fighting has eased in Basra, U.S. and Iraqi troops have been pressing militias in Baghdad's Sadr City to drive them beyond rocket range to the Green Zone.
Associated Press reporter Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and the AP's News Research Center in New York contributed to this report.
Source: AP News
Oh man this is priceless!
Grand Junction Media getting blown away by Air Force Two
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeuMj3cj3Hs&feature=related this was posted by the Aair force
This one has comments by 2 people who were on the trailer.
Grand Junction media VS Air Force Two
April 12th, 2008 6:04 pm
Cheney visit: Two demonstrators make show of arrests
By Le Roy Standish and Anna Maria Basquez / The Daily Sentinel
Two people arrested Friday spoke proudly of their “civil disobedience” and their group’s demonstration against the Grand Junction visit of Vice President Dick Cheney.
One of two protesters, Mallory Rice, 20, said that being arrested “was definitely worth it” and that she will probably have the ticket police gave her framed.
Rice and Jacob Richards, 27, who are local members of A Voice of Reason, were arrested by Grand Junction police and Mesa County sheriff’s deputies less than a half-mile from the north Grand Junction residence where Cheney attended a fundraiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer.
They were arrested around noon near G 1/2 and 26 roads and later cited for disobeying police instructions by sitting in a road rather than remaining alongside it.
Rice, Richards and others assembled at G and 26 roads around 11 a.m., not far from Beaver Lodge Lane, the street where the fundraiser was taking place.
“Then we moved down to G 1/2 Road and 26 Road and Cheney went by there,” Rice said. “We were just chanting, all of us were yelling, holding signs.”
The chants from the crowd as his motorcade passed included: “Hey-ho, Dick Cheney’s got to go!”; “U.S. out of the Middle East!”; “No justice, no peace!”; and “Jail Dick Cheney!”
From their vantage point they could see Lynne Cheney, the vice president’s wife, waving politely and smiling. People across the street told Rice that the vice president was “smirking.”
“People put red paint on their hands especially when Dick Cheney drove by,” Richards said. “There was a good crowd out there at G 1/2 and 26 — probably about 70 people.”
After Cheney’s limousine passed, Rice, Richards and others marched toward Beaver Lodge Lane.
Rice and Richards sat down in the middle of the street with a peace sign. After being moved aside by police, they attempted to resume their spot in the middle of the road, still shouting when police blocked their path.
“They told us to get back on the sidewalk and they actually tried to talk us out of arrest and we said, ‘No, this is civil disobedience and we are not going to go anywhere,’ ” Rice said. “We were tossed and put into a squad car.”
They were taken to police headquarters and each given a ticket for $18.60.
“I think it was definitely worth it, because we need to get our voices out there. We need to let them know that we are not OK with Dick Cheney in our town,” Rice said.
Rice said she would probably frame her citation after sending in the $18.60 fine.
“It was pretty fun,” Richards said.
Among the protesters lining the motorcade route was a pastor from the Koinonia Church.
“Five-hundred thousand-plus dead, innocent Iraqis, 4,000 dead children of America who are never going to be able to hug their parents or their children or their spouses, 100,000 injured — all because of lies,” said the 61-year-old pastor, Mike Burr.
Said Leslie Harlan, 34, of Grand Junction, “I just don’t agree with the war. I don’t agree with the government right now. I think it’s important to make yourself heard, even if your opinion isn’t as large as the rest of the community.”
A 60-year-old man with a sign stood nearby.
“My sign says ‘Impeach Cheney.’ That would be a good start. The United States deserves better leaders. The government is terrible,” said Bill Conrod. “In the words of Ronald Reagan, ‘Are you better off now?’ The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ ”
Not all of the demonstration, however, was against the vice president. A number of people showed up to counter the protesters and support Cheney, including Greg Green.
Green, a 42-year-old retired Army Green Beret, went among several groups of protesters, waving his American flag.
“I just wanted to make sure that the vice president and the administration realize that there’s two voices here in the Grand Valley,” Green said. “I do respectfully disagree with the liberal voice that’s here. I think if they shared the same insights and the same experiences I have had, they might feel differently ... to go someplace and have someone throw their arms around you because you’re American.
“What the American flag means to a lot of people in the world is hope. That’s what I hope people see,” Green said.
Cheney Motorcade Met by Protest Near Grand Junction Function
Cops Come Between Dick Cheney and Justice in Lexington, KY
Troops With No Signs of Trauma are Losing Vision
Doctors treating soldiers returning from Iraq are finding something they haven't seen before (no pun intended).
Soldiers, with no obvious signs of trauma are losing their eyesight.
Iraq War Vets Disabilities Are Being Downgraded
This is how John McCain and other republicans support the troops.
As a disabled veteran who served this country, I was alarmed when reading a news article that stated that Iraq War Veterans disabilities were being downgraded! With all the talk of Support the Troops going around our nation I am reminded once again of the old saying that talk is cheap.
According to this news article several soldiers were given a zero per-cent disability rating by the Army who had traumatic brain injury, caused by roadside bombs while assigned in Iraq.
This is unbelievable in this day and age that men who have put it all on the line will soon be seen walking aimlessly down the street as they join the ranks of the homeless.This is an outrage that must be addressed before our veterans wounded in this conflict hit rock bottom!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WYDV3fZRLY&feature=related Many comments by veterans here, read some of them.
April 11th, 2008 4:23 pm
Cheney, others OK'd harsh interrogations
By Lara Jakes Jordan and Pamela Hess / Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the meetings described them Thursday to the AP to confirm details first reported by ABC News on Wednesday. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
Between 2002 and 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.
"If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos you'd see a correlation," the former intelligence official said. Those who attended the dozens of meetings agreed that "there'd need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics" before using them on al-Qaida detainees, the former official said.
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The White House, Justice and State departments and the CIA refused comment Thursday, as did a spokesman for Tenet. A message for Ashcroft was not immediately returned.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., lambasted what he described as "yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture."
"Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?" Kennedy said in a statement. "Long after President Bush has left office, our country will continue to pay the price for his administration's renegade repudiation of the rule of law and fundamental human rights."
The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate.
"With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House," ACLU legislative director Caroline Fredrickson said. "This is what we suspected all along."
The former intelligence official described Cheney and the top national security officials as deeply immersed in developing the CIA's interrogation program during months of discussions over which methods should be used and when.
At times, CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, to make sure the small group of "principals" fully understood what the al-Qaida detainees would undergo. The principals eventually authorized physical abuse such as slaps and pushes, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding. This technique involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning.
The small group then asked the Justice Department to examine whether using the interrogation methods would break domestic or international laws.
"No one at the agency wanted to operate under a notion of winks and nods and assumptions that everyone understood what was being talked about," said a second former senior intelligence official. "People wanted to be assured that everything that was conducted was understood and approved by the folks in the chain of command."
The Office of Legal Counsel issued at least two opinions on interrogation methods.
In one, dated Aug. 1, 2002, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee defined torture as covering "only extreme acts" causing pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure. A second, dated March 14, 2003, justified using harsh tactics on detainees held overseas so long as military interrogators did not specifically intend to torture their captives.
Both legal opinions since have been withdrawn.
The second former senior intelligence official said rescinding the memos caused the CIA to seek even more detailed approvals for the interrogations.
The department issued another still-secret memo in October 2001 that, in part, sought to outline novel ways the military could be used domestically to defend the country in the face of an impending attack. The Justice Department so far has refused to release it, citing attorney-client privilege, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey declined to describe it Thursday at a Senate panel where Democrats characterized it as a "torture memo."
Not all of the principals who attended were fully comfortable with the White House meetings.
The ABC News report portrayed Ashcroft as troubled by the discussions, despite agreeing that the interrogations methods were legal.
"Why are we talking about this in the White House?" the network quoted Ashcroft as saying during one meeting. "History will not judge this kindly."
Gold Star Dad Misses Son's Last Phone Call Home
04/12/08 WaPo: U.S., Iraqi Forces Continue to Battle in Sadr City
04/12/08 MCT: Sadr Followers blame United States for assassination of Sadr aide
Followers of the renegade cleric Muqtada al Sadr chanted anti-American slogans and vowed revenge for the assassination Friday of Sadr's top aide in Najaf, where outrage over the killing threatens to spiral into the second deadly uprising...
04/12/08 Reuters: Heavy battles in Baghdad - Video
U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed at least 13 gunmen in heavy battles around Baghdad's Sadr City. Meanwhile, hundred of mourners have held a funeral procession for a senior aide to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
04/11/08 NPR: In Sadr City, Transcendent Bonds of Friendship
Abu Haider is the leader of a Mehdi army cell in Sadr City. His best friend from childhood, Hassan, works for Iraq's national police. The story of their relationship — and the fear and friendship that keeps it together...
04/11/08 VOA: Gates Says US Not Likely To Arrest Moqtada al-Sadr Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it is unlikely radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr would be subject to arrest by U.S. forces if he returns to Iraq. In related developments, unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a senior aide to al-Sadr...
Losing Our Will
By BOB HERBERT Published: April 12, 2008
I wonder what the answers would be if each American asked himself or herself the question: “How is the war in Iraq helping me?”
While the U.S. government continues to pour precious human treasure and vast financial resources into this ugly war without end, it is all but ignoring deeply entrenched problems that are weakening the country here at home.
On the same day that President Bush was announcing an indefinite suspension of troop withdrawals from Iraq, the New York Times columnist David Leonhardt was telling us a sad story about how the middle class has fared during the Bush years.
The economic boom so highly touted by the president and his supporters “was, for most Americans,” said Mr. Leonhardt, “nothing of the sort.” Despite the sustained expansion of the past few years, the middle class — for the first time on record — failed to grow with the economy.
And now, of course, we’re sinking into a nasty recession.
The U.S., once the greatest can-do country on the planet, now can’t seem to do anything right. The great middle class has maxed out its credit cards and drained dangerous amounts of equity from family homes. No one can seem to figure out how to generate the growth in good-paying jobs that is the only legitimate way of putting strapped families back on their feet.
The nation’s infrastructure is aging and in many places decrepit. Rebuilding it would be an important source of job creation, but nothing on the scale that is needed is in sight. To get a sense of how important an issue this is, consider New Orleans.
The historian Douglas Brinkley, who lives in New Orleans, has written: “What people didn’t yet fully comprehend was that the overall disaster, the sinking of New Orleans, was a man-made debacle, resulting from poorly designed levees and floodwalls.”
We could have saved the victims of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, but we didn’t. And now, more than 2 ½ years after the tragedy, we are still unable to lift the stricken city off its knees.
Other nations can provide health care for everyone. The United States cannot. In an era in which a college degree is becoming a prerequisite for a middle-class quality of life, we are having big trouble getting our kids through high school. And despite being the wealthiest of all nations, nearly 10 percent of Americans are resorting to food stamps to maintain an adequate diet, and 4 in every 10 American children are growing up in families that are poor or near-poor.
The U.S. seems almost paralyzed, mesmerized by Iraq and unable to generate the energy or the will to handle the myriad problems festering at home. The war will eventually cost a staggering $3 trillion or more, according to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. When he was asked on “Democracy Now!” about who is profiting from the war, he said the two big gainers were the oil companies and the defense contractors.
This is the pathetic state of affairs in the U.S. as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Whatever happened to the dynamic country that flexed its muscles after World War II and gave us the G.I. Bill, the Marshall Plan, the United Nations (in a quest for peace, not war), the interstate highway system, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the finest higher education system the world has known, and a standard of living that was the envy of all?
America’s commanding general in Iraq, David Petraeus, and our ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, went up to Capitol Hill this week but were unable to give any real answers as to when the U.S. might be able to disengage, or when a corner might be turned, or when a faint, flickering hopeful light might be glimpsed at the end of the long, horrific Iraqi tunnel.
A country that used to act like Babe Ruth now swings like a minor-leaguer. The all-American can-do philosophy has been smothered by the hapless can’t-do performances of the people who have been in charge for the past several years. It’s both tragic and embarrassing.
The war in Iraq stands like a boulder in the road, blocking progress on so many other important issues that are crucial to our viability as a society. We’ve seen this before. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which included the war on poverty, was crippled by the war in Vietnam.
On the evening of April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went into Riverside Church in Manhattan and said of the war in Vietnam: “This madness must cease.”
Forty-one years later, we can still hear the echo of Dr. King’s call. The only sane response is: “Amen.”
Democrat Blames Iraq for Weak Economy
By WILL LESTER – 20 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — The growing cost to the United States of fighting the war in Iraq "is not only linked to our economic skid, but is a leading cause of it," a Democratic congressman said Saturday.
Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky linked the costly, unpopular war with the growing economic troubles — some say recession — in this country.
Yarmuth said in the Democrats' weekly radio address that the testimony this week of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about the Iraq war served as reminder of the billions of dollars being poured into Iraq as the U.S. economy struggles.
"General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker failed to offer a plan to change direction in Iraq and redeploy our troops," Yarmuth said. "Instead, they offered more of the same, with U.S. troops and taxpayers paying the price."
The U.S. government has spent "more than half-a-trillion dollars" in support of the war effort, while that money could be spent on pressing needs in this country, he said.
In February, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that pulling out of Iraq was the most named remedy for fixing U.S. economic problems.
Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said a withdrawal would help the country's economic problems "a great deal" and 20 percent more said it would help somewhat. Some 43 percent said increasing government spending on health care, education and housing programs would help a great deal; 36 percent named cutting taxes.
"Across America, our roads and bridges are crumbling and are in desperate need of repair, yet taxpayer dollars are being squandered on an Iraqi government that is riddled with waste, fraud and corruption," Yarmuth said.
He said "the cost of one month in Iraq could extend the Children's Health Insurance Program, which the president vetoed, to 10 million children of working families for a full year."
He noted that Congress has passed an economic stimulus package to send millions of Americans up to $1,200 that could provide a boost to the economy.
But Yarmuth isn't satisfied.
"We know we must do more," he said, adding that Democrats are pushing for a second economic stimulus package to aid workers, their families and businesses.
The White House said the first economic stimulus package should be given a chance to work before a second is passed.
Jimmy Carter defends meeting with Hamas
By CALVIN WOODWARD
Associated Press Writer
April 13, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former President Jimmy Carter said he feels "quite at ease" about meeting Hamas militants over the objections of Washington because the Palestinian group is essential to a future peace with Israel.
Carter, interviewed Saturday for ABC News' "This Week," airing Sunday, also said he would oppose a U.S. Olympic boycott and hopes all countries will join in the Beijing games.
He spoke from Katmandu, Nepal, where his team of observers from the Carter Center monitored an election that appeared likely to transform rule by royal dynasty into a democracy with former Maoist rebels in a strong position, judging by incomplete returns.
Several State Department officials, including the secretary, Condoleezza Rice, criticized Carter's plans to talk in Syria this week with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in the first public contact in two years between a prominent American figure and the group.
Carter said he had not heard the objections directly, although a State Department spokesman said earlier that a senior official from the department had called the former president.
"I feel quite at ease in doing this," Carter said. "I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process."
Although he said the meeting would not be a negotiation, he outlined distinct goals.
"I think that it's very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to express their views, to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and to cooperate with the Fatah as a group that unites the Palestinians, maybe to get them to agree to a cease-fire - things of this kind," he said.
The State Department says it advised Carter twice against meeting representatives of Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist organization.
"I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace," Rice said Friday, after reports of the planned meeting surfaced.
Carter said he'd be meeting Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudi Arabians and others "who might have to play a crucial role in any future peace agreement that involves the Middle East."
Asked whether it was right to meet a group that has not renounced violence or recognized Israel, he said, "Well, you can't always get prerequisites adopted by other people before you even talk to them."
Pressure to drop the meeting has come from his own party. Democratic Reps. Artur Davis of Alabama, Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Adam Schiff of California and Adam Smith of Washington state wrote a letter to Carter saying the meeting could confer legitimacy on a group that embraces violence.
"I've been meeting with Hamas leaders for years," Carter said.
The Carter Center said his "study mission" was taking him to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan this week.
Carter, a broker of the 1978 Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his conflict mediation as president and since.
As president, Carter led the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "That was a totally different experience in 1980, when the Soviet Union had brutally invaded and killed thousands and thousands of people," he said, rejecting the idea of boycotting the Beijing games to protest China's crackdown in Tibet. He did not address whether just the opening ceremonies should be boycotted.
The Torture Drawings the Pentagon Doesn't Want You to See
Drawings by journalist Sami Al-Haj depicting torture at Gitmo have been censored.
Sami al-Haj is a journalist, but one unlike any other. For over six years since December 15, 2001 -- when he was seized by Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border while on assignment as a cameraman for the Qatar-based broadcaster al-Jazeera -- he has been in a disturbing but unique position: a trained journalist held as an "enemy combatant" on the frontline of the Bush administration's "War on Terror," first in Afghanistan, and then in Guantánamo.
The outline of Sami's story should be familiar to readers; last summer AlterNet published a detailed article by Rachel Morris: "Prisoner 345: An Arab Journalist's Five Years in Guantánamo," which made clear how Sami was seized because of the erroneous claim that he had interviewed Osama bin Laden, and the disturbing fact that his many interrogations in Guantánamo have focused solely on the administration's attempts to turn him into an informant against al-Jazeera, to "prove" a connection between the broadcaster and Osama bin Laden that does not exist. As his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith of the legal action charity Reprieve, noted bluntly and accurately in his book Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantánamo Bay, "Sami was a prisoner in the Bush Administration's assault on al-Jazeera."
Go read the rest of this story and SEE the drawings.
April 12, 2008 1:00 PM
Dick Cheney's belligerence and aggressive anti-Iran rhetoric is driving Arab nations into the arms of Russia
There is talk of new wars across the Middle East this summer - and there is nothing new about that. What is new is the reaction of America's closest allies in the Arab world to the latest outbreak of belligerent rhetoric. Led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Egypt, they have indicated they don't like the war talk from Vice-President Cheney and his team.
Furthermore, they're hedging their bets. While not exactly cosying up to Moscow they have opened up new lines of diplomacy with the Russians on a range of issues from regional security to nuclear technology, and joining the World Trade Organisation.
Israel has been carrying out a series of emergency civil defence drills, with officials warning of possible simultaneous attacks from Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories this summer.
On last month's tour of Middle Eastern capitals, Dick Cheney is reported to have blamed Iran and Syria as the primary sources for mischief in the Middle East. Both are seen as the sponsors of Hizbullah and Hamas. Damascus is the prime base for Sunni extremist groups now operating in Iraq, while Tehran is seen as the prime sponsor of trouble in the Shia communities.
And on top of all that there remain Iran's nuclear ambitions - with President Ahmadinejad announcing only a few days ago that the Iranian nuclear energy authority now has 6,000 more centrifuges up and running to enrich nuclear fuel.
The Cheney narrative of "not allowing Iran to go nuclear on my watch" has had its cover somewhat blown by recent revelations that the US has been talking quietly with Iran for some years.
One of the suggestions was that Iran would have fuel enriched outside the country, but a certain amount on enrichment could go in Iran itself, provided there is international supervision. The talks even looked at having an international approval and surveillance committee on which the Iranians said they would allow one American member.
Given the possibilities that some sort of dialogue between Washington and Tehran might bear fruit, the Arab powers were alarmed at the belligerence of Cheney's message and rhetoric on his recent tour. It sounded to them that he still very much wanted to attack Iran, or Syria, or both.
No sooner had Cheney departed than President Mubarak took off for Moscow to discuss cooperation on nuclear energy and programmes with the Russians. A few days after that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council States said they would open talks with Russia about WTO membership.
The inference is clear: the conservative Arab states now believe that, in the short to medium term at least, Russia is as good a bet for containing the ambitions of Shia Iran as a Republican regime in Washington. It will not have escaped their attention that some of the leading Iran-bashers of the Washington thinktank circuit, notably John Bolton and Robert Kagan have quit team Bush to join team John McCain.
So Russia is back in the Middle East and Mediterranean security game in a big way. Moreover it is also back in the oil security game in a big way. Moscow has just struck a big gas export deal through an alliance of its own Gazprom and Italy's ENI for the export of gas from Libya. It seems a similar deal with Algeria involving Gazprom and ENI is now on the cards.
By their misguided belligerency, Dick Cheney and co appear to have undone the legacy of their hero Ronald Reagan in isolating Russia at the end of the Cold War. It is even being whispered that the princes in Riyhadh want to sign an arms deal and defence pact with Moscow.
So Russia appears to be riding high in the Arab Middle East in a way that it hasn't since the days of Gamal Abdul Nasser and his vision of Pan-Arab socialism. Interestingly, we haven't been hearing too much from Vice-President Cheney these past few weeks.
Refugees fight forced return to Iraq war zones
UN dismay as tribunal allows British expulsions
Jamie Doward, home affairs editor The Observer, Sunday April 13 2008
The United Nations last night accused the government of holding a 'sword of Damocles' over the heads of Iraqi refugees in Britain after it emerged that the Home Office had won a landmark test case giving it the power to return refugees to war-torn parts of their home country, including Basra and Baghdad.
The ruling, which is being studied closely by other European countries, has alarmed refugee support groups, who say it means asylum seekers from war zones could be returned to other dangerous countries, such as Somalia.
The Refugee Legal Centre has launched an urgent appeal against the ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, which it says paves the way for the removal of the majority of Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK.
'If we didn't appeal the tribunal's decision, the government would have a free hand to forcibly remove hundreds of Iraqi civilians to Baghdad,' said Caroline Slocock, chief executive of the legal centre.
The test case, the culmination of a series of legal challenges that started last year, hinged on a European Council directive guaranteeing refugees the right to protection in the UK if their return to their native country meant a 'serious threat to their life' because of 'international or internal armed conflict'.
The UK has been returning Iraqis to the north of their country for some time. But the test case is considered pivotal in legal circles in defining what protection should be given to refugees fleeing war zones. Neither the Refugee Convention nor the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees refugees from war zones the right to remain in the UK, whereas the council directive was considered to offer them a much higher level of protection.
But following the tribunal's decision, the government now has the power to remove anyone to any part of Iraq. 'We are pleased that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has agreed with our view and found that conditions in Iraq are such that an ordinary individual Iraqi civilian is not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence,' a spokesman for the Home Office said.
'We will continue to consider every asylum and human rights claim on its individual merits in accordance with our international obligations. We will ensure that we continue to monitor the situation in Iraq carefully so that our asylum and human rights decisions continue to reflect the latest available information.'
The government argued at the tribunal that there was no 'internal armed conflict' in Iraq as defined by the directive. And Home Office lawyers successfully argued the general risks to the refugee in the test case - a man known as KH - were not sufficient for him to be granted protection.
The tribunal ruling has wide implications for Iraqi asylum seekers. It stated: 'Neither civilians in Iraq generally, nor civilians even in provinces and cities worst affected by the armed conflict, can show they face a "serious and individual threat" to their "life or person"... merely by virtue of being civilians.'
The ruling has prompted a strong reaction from the UN, which has urged the government not to start sending people back to the most dangerous parts of Iraq. 'We strongly advise against the return of anyone to central or southern Iraq,' said Jacqueline Parlevliet, deputy representative with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 'As things now stand a sword of Damocles hangs over the head of every Iraqi in the UK. The way this ruling has been phrased means their protection needs are no longer recognized by the Home Office.'
The government's decision to argue for its right to return Iraqis has highlighted its increasingly tough line on asylum issues. Before 2003 the government recognized that people fleeing war zones could be granted a limited period of leave to remain in the UK until the situation improved.
But the Home Office scrapped the policy in 2004 amid concerns it acted as a 'pull factor' which encouraged asylum claims. Although the government recently started accepting Iraqis' asylum claims if they had worked for the British military, it is reluctant to allow other Iraqis to remain. The European Council for Refugees and Exiles has found 13 per cent of Iraqis' asylum claims were approved in the first instance in the UK last year compared with 82 per cent in Sweden and 85 per cent in Germany. Last year just over 500 Iraqis were allowed to remain in the UK. 'Despite its active role in the region, the UK has given very little support to Iraqis,' Slocock said.
More than two million people have fled Iraq since 2003.
Well it’s beginning world food prices and shortages are killing off the poor.
Irin News has several good articles today go check them out.
Indonesian rice prices hurting the poor
JAKARTA - Sutini, a 50-year-old housewife, does not mind standing in line for almost an hour to get 1kg of free rice when rising food prices are hitting Indonesia’s poorest. full report
This is a must read!
The Meltdown Lowdown
This week in economic woes: Congress acts to worsen the foreclosure crisis, why we should hope investment banks move to England, and how ordinary Americans are subsidizing fancy yachts and private clubs.
Dean Baker | April 10, 2008 | web only
Editor's Note: Introducing a new regular feature at TAP Online in which Dean Baker, author of the Beat the Press Blog and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research reviews the latest news in our ongoing economic crisis. Look for it every Thursday.
1. Congress Takes Bold Action to Worsen the Foreclosure Crisis.
During its spring recess, Congress heard from constituents who were concerned about losing their homes and about plunging home equity. Spurred into action, the Senate quickly approved a bill whose main provisions would give tax breaks to banks and homebuilders and provide an incentive to carry through foreclosures.
The tax break allows firms to write off losses this year and next against the prior four years' profits. Under current law, they can only seek to reclaim taxes paid in the last two years. Who has big losses now but large profits three and four years ago? That's right, homebuilders who got caught up in the irrational exuberance of the housing bubble and mortgage bankers who pushed predatory loans. I'm sure that we're all sympathetic to the plight of homebuilders and bankers who have fallen on hard times, but whatever happened to personal responsibility?
But wait, as the infomercials say, there's more! The package also includes a $7,000 tax credit for anyone who buys a foreclosed home. This is not entirely a bad idea. Many foreclosed homes have been allowed to deteriorate and would require several thousand dollars in repairs and renovations to be habitable.
However, the tax credit as structured by Congress is not quite the answer. First, it is not refundable. As a result, many moderate-income families seeking to buy foreclosed properties would not get the full benefit of the tax credit, since they will not owe $7,000 in taxes. More importantly, the credit would apply to homes that are still in the foreclosure process. This gives banks more incentive to carry through a foreclosure, rather than attempt to work out new terms with the current homeowner.
Tax breaks for homebuilders and banks and new incentives for foreclosures -- whom exactly did Congress spend its recess talking to?
2. Investment Banks Move to England. Good!
Continue reading this important article!